Paterson – Ode to the usual

Jim Jarmusch’s new film – on screen at LiWu (Lichtspieltheater Wundervoll) in December

 

Jim Jarmusch’s newest work is another character-based drama, although one might say that in it, nothing really happens. He manages to bring to us the wonderful and dreamy facets near again – not by creating complex plots, but by characters that couldn’t be more diverse. It is centered around the eponymous bus driver, who also aspires to be a poet.

The independent-movie maker gives proof again that to shoot a touching and award-worthy film you don’t need to fill it with action scenes and Hollywood celebrities.

The story is told from the perspective of Paterson, a bus driver in a town of the same name in New Jersey. Besides driving the bus, Paterson is a passionate poet, writing his works down in his own, secret notebook. His girlfriend tries to express herself in her own way, by painting the doorways, taking dvd guitar-lessons, and making cupcakes. The film covers one week, following Paterson through the stations of his everyday life, like his workplace, and his favorite pub. They are interluded by fragments of his poems, turning into complete works over the course of the episodes. At the end of the work week, Paterson’s bus breaks down, marking the first but not the only ripple in his daily routine.

As to be expected from Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes), the characters and their interactions are more important for the film than the plot itself. In his role as the calm bus driver Paterson, Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) delivers a performance way more nuanced and believable than his tantrum-throwing display of Kylo Ren. Watching Paterson go through his everyday life in his well-balanced, good-tempered manner seems both entertaining and plausible, all without the construction of world-swallowing tragedies to keep the plot moving. His week consists of getting to work early, listening to the chats of his passengers, and working on his poetry. After that, Paterson wanders home to his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who seemingly awaits him with a new ‘project’ every time. Nevertheless, Paterson is never annoyed by her everchanging ideas, and supports them unconditionally. And when the alleged tragedy does happen, we can sense his inner struggle through driver’s display, without any overstated pathos in his acting.

Golshifteh Farahani (Altamira, Exodus: Gods and Kings) is the complete opposite. Intent and impulsive, she cannot seem to go a single day without finding a new project for herself. Laura wants to open a cupcake factory, become a country singer, or just to paint all the doors black-maybe she got stuck on listening to the Stones a little too long during her guitar lessons. In different circumstances, her role might have been rather strenuous to watch, but several factors keep that from happening. First and foremost, her chemistry with Adam Diver is excellent: both the actors and their roles complement each other perfectly. While Paterson encourages Laura in all her undertakings, Laura elates him in his creation of art. Secondly, her endeavors do not seem to fail: her cupcakes sell very well, and the guitar lessons display first successes after just one day. Lastly, just like it is the case with Driver, Goldstifteh’s acting prevents her character from becoming a caricature.

Paterson is no normal drama. It lacks the tropes genre conventions would like to imprint on it, staying unspectacular in its story and subtle in its performances. What it does not lack is love for its material, and care for its characters, creating a moving and entertaining piece of work. It is an ode to everyday life and its entwinement with art, to the ability to find the beautiful in the mundane, and you might find Paterson walking with you a while after you have left the cinema.

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